by Jim Allen on March 17, 2020

in Extras


When most of you think about gambling films, titles like “Casino”, “Rounders”, and “The Cincinnati Kid” instantly spring to mind. They are classics that almost any cinema lover has watched or at least can recognize.

However, the gambling theme is part of many other motion pictures. Its tight connection to exciting topics like nightlife, Slots, and the mob makes it an excellent setting for a good movie. Some productions fail to utilize it properly, while others stay under the radar for some reason.

This post is dedicated to the most underrated gambling movies out there. They are all entertaining films with high value that didn’t find the recognition they deserved.

  1. The Gambler

First in line is the 1974 version of “The Gambler”, starring the excellent James Caan as Axel Freed. The college professor is usually one of the smartest guys in the room, but not when it comes to gambling. Freed often loses it and his addiction spirals out of control throughout the film.

Caan is exceptional in the role and the story gets darker by the minute. It shows how a respected member of society risks everything because of his obsession and the ending is truly terrifying.

  1. Owning Mahowny

You could argue that “Owning Mahowny”s critical success excludes the film from any list of underrated motion pictures. And yet, simply ask your friends and family if they have heard of this title and you will understand why the movie is here.

It’s yet another story about a person who looks perfectly normal on the outside. Philip Seymour Hoffman plays the role of Dan Mahowny, a bank manager who has access to millions and a gambling issue.

That’s a bad combination and an excellent premise for a film. It’s curious to note that “Owning Mahowny” is based on a true story that happened in Canada in the 1980s. That’s when loan sharks and mobsters controlled the industry, long before the birth of the online gambling sites and online casinos we know today.

  1. Poolhall Junkies

One could say that “Poolhall Junkies” is like a poor man’s “The Color of Money”. The film has its obvious flaws but has earned a cult following across the USA. It follows the story of Johnny, a talented pool player who grows up in the world of hustling.

He faces a lot of ups and downs during the story and it all ends up with a cool twist. If you add Christopher Walken’s iconic appearance, there are plenty of reasons to watch this one.

  1. High Roller: The Stu Ungar Story

Most people haven’t heard of Stu Ungar but he’s pretty much the most talented player in the history of poker. Kid Poker is the only one to win three WSOP Main Event titles up to this day and his life was a rollercoaster of drugs, money, women, and gambling.

While “High Roller: The Stu Ungar Story” probably could’ve been a better film, considering the source material, it’s still worth your time. It depicts the glory and the fall of a truly remarkable person.

  1. The Good Thief

The collection of most underrated gambling movies is completed by “The Good Thief”. This 2003 production follows the story of an old-school gambler and heroin addict played by Nick Nolte.

The whole screenplay revolves around the “one last heist” trope that might sound like a cliché, but works well here, mostly thanks to Nolte’s sublime performance. It’s a nice movie with enough twists and cool moments that make it a must-watch for all fans of gambling films.

These are the best five gambling underrated movies that you probably never heard of. While none of them is perfect, they all provide excellent entertainment and food for thought about the effects of gambling on human life.

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